New Designer Onboarding

over 8 years ago from , Designer | Developer | Made By Munsters

Hello all -

We recently hired a new UI Designer at LaunchPad Lab who will be starting with us very soon. We are always working to improve our new hire onboarding process and I am wondering if you all might have any suggestions for us.

When you were hired at your current/previous company what was your onboarding experience like and how would you have changed that process for the better?



  • Tom CreightonTom Creighton, over 8 years ago

    Literally ANY onboarding process is going to be appreciated more than a haphazard non-process.

    In past jobs, I've had experiences where I was expected to immediately start producing work on day one with no explanation of process, goals, tool kit, etc. – this is a great way to make new hires feel confused or unwanted.

    Even little things ("here's some places to grab lunch") go a long way.

    25 points
  • Jeff ShinJeff Shin, over 8 years ago

    The best thing that I had in my onboarding deck when I started at 500px was a slide that read something like 'It's your first day, and you don't really have anything to do and it's really awkward...', and a list of things to check out, like some things about our product, bios of other team members, Basecamp threads, etc.

    20 points
    • Taylor Van OrdenTaylor Van Orden, over 8 years ago

      This is one of those things that I would have never even considred during onboarding- but it's so true and so helpful. Kudos to 500px.

      0 points
  • Nathan Garvie, over 8 years ago (edited over 8 years ago )

    We've tried a few things and often find we give people too much information on their first couple of days.

    We've started to design a modular system of info chunks that get emailed to new team members through out their first week (through a Mailchimp drip campaign). This way they don't have an information overload on their first day. This takes a lot of responsibility off someone to give ALL the important details and lets them get someone up to speed at a more manageable pace.

    12 points
  • Andrew LucasAndrew Lucas, over 8 years ago

    I think one on ones are pretty crucial, it means the new starter gets to have a proper chat to the whole team, including people they may not work directly with. Also, jumping right into a real/live task is a good way of getting people moving, even if it's something small.

    7 points
  • Joshua SortinoJoshua Sortino, over 8 years ago (edited over 8 years ago )

    There's the usual process which involves saying "hi" to the team, setting up their workstation, understanding their first project, etc... But one of my favorite additions has been a first-time full product walkthrough while the new designer records all of their least and most favorite parts of the experience and any ideas they may have.

    A new candidate has a fresh set of eyes. More importantly, they have a fresh set of designer's eyes. There's something special about a designer's first impression, and you should take advantage of that before they're accustom to the product and all of its flaws.

    Further reading: http://joshuasortino.com/journal/savoring-first-experiences

    6 points
  • Ryan McLaughlinRyan McLaughlin, over 8 years ago

    To me one of the worst things you can do is expect new designers to start "working" in the first hour of the first day. I think having someone sit, watch, and learn is the most valuable thing they can be doing for the first few weeks or sprints.

    Every organization functions differently, and it takes time to learn the vibe, speed, customs, and personalities of the process before jumping right in and trying to impress with your skills.

    It might seem like a "waste" of time, but I find it also saves from having to re-do work that was done prematurely.

    4 points
  • Nav PaweraNav Pawera, over 8 years ago (edited over 8 years ago )

    We recently had an intern join our design team. On his first day, the entire design team met him at a cafe near the office (we're a small team of 4). We had some light breakfast and then chit chatted over coffee. Then all of us walked over to the office together, showed him around and introduced him to the others in the office.

    This was followed by some admin stuff and us giving him a rundown of all the projects each of us is working on and also the recent projects we've delivered. Then a game of ping pong and eventually a lunch with the dev team.

    This worked well for a first day. I think it's more important to make someone feel comfortable and at home before expecting anything.

    As we're a small team, it's easy enough to hang around, talk throughout the day and meetup after work — other than this we don't really have much more of an onboarding process. Will be watching this thread for more ideas!

    2 points
  • Kyle CookKyle Cook, over 8 years ago

    We have a very senior core team of designers and one gets paired with each new hire to get them rolling. This involves a "starter project" thats essentially just an open-ended idea or problem to be solved with design - something like "design an app for people that have lost pets". Most have nothing to do with any of client work.

    The designer gets to take the idea in any way they want and their progress is shared in our twice-weekly Design Stand-ups. Once actual client work starts coming in, the starter project just gets put on the back burner until it is eventually finished.

    We've actually kept a bunch of these starter projects, or components of them, in our backlog for potential future products etc.

    2 points
  • Nathan NNathan N, over 8 years ago (edited over 8 years ago )

    The best onboarding experience I had was as a contractor at a large web development firm. They had a corporate wiki where I could find instructions on how to configure my PC the right way, custom built extensions and code snippet libraries for common things were included as well. I also got a tour of the whole complex even though I only worked on one section of one floor.

    1 point
  • Gordon Mei, over 8 years ago

    Go around and introduce the new designer to everyone on the team. They could go around and take the initiative to approach all these new strangers, but it's a huge gesture if you handle the introductions.

    Explain where to find things in the office, and when lunch hour generally happens. Don't expect that HR has already done this, and even if they have, it makes your new teammate feel more welcome.

    Actively make sure they have everything they need (Basecamp access, mailing lists, Dropbox permissions, etc). There's plenty of institutional knowledge that they don't have, and this will get them started.

    Do not thrust them into a meeting with other employees and simply resume the conversation where you left off. Be mindful that there's someone new in the room, so it goes a long way to pause once in a while to briefly provide context for an obscure project or lingo, so they can feel included as a part of the team.

    Eat lunch with them. Possibly with other team members as well. Don't leave them stranded to find their own table.

    Broadly talk through projects in progress, and where they align with the longer term goals of the product.

    Remember to say goodbye when you or they leave the office for the day.

    1 point
  • Nick MNick M, over 8 years ago

    I loved my onboarding experience at this job. The previous job, not so much.

    This is something that I really like doing with Junior Designers. It helps me to be a better mentor, and also makes sure that I'm keeping in touch with all of the projects going on.

    I think pairing them with another designer who has been there for a while is essential. For the first few days-weeks, expect that the new hire will be deluged with everything - the fact that they're at a new job, they may have moved, they're meeting new people and having to learn new names...

    It's better to spread out project introductions over the course of some time to help them acclimate, and be able to piece things together on their own. Give them small pieces of work to start with on each project so they can get a good feel. Don't give them things that are time-sensitive to start (if you can help it).

    1 point
  • Stuart McMorrisStuart McMorris, over 8 years ago

    There's been some good suggestions. Ogilvy & Mather have an induction box 'The Eternal Pursuit of Unhappiness' which I thought was pretty nice to have something tangible.


    0 points
  • Stefan Rauch, over 8 years ago

    We give them a black sketchbook for their work, and fill the opening spread with hand lettered names of everyone on their team/their role. It makes it easier to know who to go to for different things.

    One on one lunches as well.

    0 points
  • Wes OudshoornWes Oudshoorn, over 8 years ago

    Appoint him someone who will fix his problems during the first X weeks. I felt awkward going up to people I don't know to get the stuff I need.

    Also, one on one coffee with everyone who he will be working with should be cool.

    Otherwise, make sure he keeps his quirks and feels safe with them. You probably want to hire someone who isn't exactly like everyone you already have. Make sure he knows doing stuff differently (or different stuff) is appreciated.

    0 points
  • Micah SivitzMicah Sivitz, over 8 years ago

    I found this process pretty interesting. We use Trello as well so it's a good workflow for our team. https://medium.com/@Liz_Hall1/onboarding-new-hires-with-trello-ecc87e87ffd5

    I've been wanting to ask this community the same question so good post!

    0 points
  • Ed LyEd Ly, over 8 years ago

    Workiva, in addition to a multiple day onboarding process, follows the practice of assigning an official"First Friend" (usually someone who has been there a while) to new employees.

    The First Friend's job is to help new hires feel comfortable and settled. This person will become a lifeline when new employees have any questions, get lost or just want to hang out and sip some coffee.

    Very helpful for the first few weeks, especially when you're trying to remember names and conference room locations!

    0 points
  • Jordan FlaigJordan Flaig, over 8 years ago

    Introductions, and given a day or two to get situated and get comfortable with the new space and slowly work into projects and new projects.

    0 points
  • Jeffrey KamJeffrey Kam, over 8 years ago

    I have the designer spend a little time on their first or second day with a few people on the team, not necessarily other designers. I think it's important that the designer has a good understanding on how the company runs, so I have her sit down with some PMs, engineers, account managers, etc.

    0 points
  • Diego LafuenteDiego Lafuente, over 8 years ago


    I had to go desk by desk to get info for services, etc.

    0 points
  • Al HaighAl Haigh, over 8 years ago

    It's not just for on-boarding, but http://kinhr.com/ is doing some cool stuff in the HR software space.

    Also check out how Trello on-boards new hires (with a Trello board) http://blog.fogcreek.com/how-we-use-trello-to-onboard-new-hires/

    0 points